On Wednesday, the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas (CMS-A) announced it will terminate the membership of six master sommeliers, following an independent, external investigation into sexual harassment allegations.
Bob Bath, Fred Dame, Fred Dexheimer, Drew Hendricks, Joseph Linder, and Matt Stamp will lose their “Master Sommelier” titles and be expelled from the organization, pending a legally required hearing within the next 30 days, according to a CMS-A press release. Geoff Kruth, a former board member who resigned in 2020, has also been barred from ever applying for reinstatement.
Allegations of widespread misconduct were first reported by The New York Times in Oct. 2020, after 21 female sommeliers spoke out against a deep-rooted culture of sexual harassment, manipulation, and assault.
Margaret C. Bell, a founding partner of San Diego’s Lagasse Branch Bell + Kinkead, which specializes in employment law, led the external investigation into 22 cases of misconduct. After hearing evidence from more than 80 individuals, Bell shared her findings with a CMS-A ethics committee in Sep. 2021. The committee spent two months reviewing the cases before publishing its results on Wednesday.
Eleven members were suspended by the CMS-A in the fallout of last year’s scandal. However, the investigation’s findings “did not support further action in some cases, and those members have been removed from suspension effective immediately,” according to Wednesday’s release.
Among the six master sommeliers set to have their membership terminated, Dame will likely be the most familiar name. A co-founder of the CMS-A, Dame featured prominently in the popular, wine-focused documentary “Somm.”
“This reckoning in our industry and organization has been incredibly painful — most painful of all for the survivors who felt unsafe or compromised by those they trusted,” Emily Wines, Chair of the Board of Directors, CMS-A, said. “From this deep disappointment and betrayal, we will continue channeling the learned lessons into growth and positive change for our organization.”